Friday, March 27, 2009

The First PLC

It doesn't matter how trained you are, or how many times you've watched those idyllic videos with the SPL running PLC and troop meetings like a pro; until your own troop "gets it", it's a bit painful to experience.

Despite being a trained leader, having attended NYLT as a youth, and Wood Badge for the 21st Century, I've never been in a troop - even as a youth - where the SPL ran the troop, or PLC was held. A bit of a sad commentary on the programs I was in I guess, but the more I read and study the program and get the vision of scouting, I know it needs to be done this way. So I'm going to do all I can to make sure it does.

Last night was our first go at PLC. Parents of SPL/PLs were notified and confirmed scouts could attend. SPL and PLs were notified of the meeting time and reminded of what they need to bring. I had planned this first PLC to be an orientation to how the meeting should run, and from here out it's the SPL's meeting.

Well.. The SPL showed up over 30 minutes late. He wasn't particularly engaged, and wasn't taking notes - even as we covered the troop meeting agenda which followed immediately after PLC.

Troop meeting was shaky, but ours are often a bit unruly due to some behavior/discipline problems. But the SPL was in charge, and it was his meeting with just some gentle guidance and support.

The good news is the PLs, which are some of the younger scouts actually, seem to be catching the vision and I have hope that with practice and training they'll understand how the program should run and when they are elected SPL one day, they'll understand how to run the program.

I know it doesn't happen overnight, and I won't let the program flop, but I do want the scouts to take ownership and fill their appointed roles in the troop. It's not just their duty, but it's their program; and they will enjoy it and benefit SO much more if they are running the program.

If we're building tomorrow's leaders, we have to let them lead.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Service Stars

I posed this question to people in Twitter, but the format isn't very conducive to discussion or details so I felt a post here was in order.

How do you wear your Service Stars?

You see, despite 15 years in scouting, I've never been in a unit that really used them and I'd like to start rewarding the boys and leaders by recognizing their tenure in scouting. I think it's one more way to help someone receive recognition for their contribution to scouting; but is an important way to keep track of a person's scouting history. Scouting record keeping is kind of like keeping a journal and as I'm looking back through my history, I'm wishing I'd kept better records of my personal scouting career; and that our troop had a better history.

I'm clear on how they're worn If a medal or embroidered knot is worn, service stars are worn 3/8 inch above the medal or knot - centered on the pocket below the World Scouting Crest) and the colors (Gold backs for Cubs, Green for Boy Scouts, Brown for Varsity, Red for Explorers, Blue backs for Leaders). What I'm undecided about is how to divide up my scouting tenure and what pins/colors to wear.

The insignia guide says:
Service stars may be worn by all youth and adult members who have at least one year of tenure with the Boy Scouts of America. The stars are worn with the appropriate color background for the phase of Scouting in which the service was rendered. If an individual's primary registration is in one phase of Scouting and later in another, separate stars with the appropriate background and numerals may be worn simultaneously. Or, leaders may combine youth and adult tenure into one or two stars with blue background.


So which years of service are they recommending you combine and how? If using two stars, I presume one is for youth and one is for adult? But both are blue background?

Dividing up my almost 15 years in scouting I would have:
  • 4 years in Cubs (Gold)

  • 6 years in Boy Scouts (Green)

  • 2 years in Varsity (Brown)

  • 3 years as Adult Leader (Blue)


  • So I'm leaning towards just keeping them separate, and going with all 4 stars. But wondered what other Scouters do.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Wasabi, & Chili, & Lime - Oh My! Part II

    Ok, as of today the long awaited new products are available online!


  • Trail's End® Chili Lime Almonds (40oz) $49 ($34.50 returned to local scouting)


  • Trail's End® Wasabi Soy Almonds (40oz) $49 ($34.50 returned to local scouting)


  • Trail's End® Yogurt-Covered Pretzels (50oz) $45 ($31.50 returned to local Scouting)



  • I was pretty disappointed that they don't have smaller packages at a better price point. It's good more $$ stays local, but hopefully people aren't too turned off by the very expensive bag of almonds considering they've not tried them before. Would have been good to offer a large bag and small bag option.

    Anyway, it's about the scouts right? And it's for a good cause!

    So here is *yet another* shameless plug for my son who is earning his way to the 2010 Centennial National Jamboree, summer camp with the troop, and NYLT, and your chance to check out the new product line! Just visit Http://www.OrderPopcorn.com and input his unique code to shop: TEVP899 Then you can try out these bold new products and show your support for scouting!

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Scouts & Snakes

    How do you increase your Troop Meeting attendance from 10 scouts and two leaders to nearly 60 people, including a visiting Troop, and a visiting Pack in just one meeting? Invite this guy!!

    Click For Photo


    I'll warn you now - I cover multiple topics in this entry:
    1) Troop Meetings/Program Features
    2) How Merit Badges should be earned
    3) A Scoutmaster's Job
    4) A Boy Led Troop

    This month our program feature is the Reptile & Amphibian Study Merit Badge* so I arranged for a guest from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to come discuss the Timber Rattlesnake population in our area - which frankly you wouldn't expect SE Minnesota to have Rattlesnakes, but right in our area we do because of the rocky bluffs. The population has been in decline due to bounty hunting and fire prevention which led to growth of trees on the bluffs which diminishes the habitat of these snakes.

    The DNR guest also brought a Milk Snake, a Fox Snake, and a Bull Snake which she passed around the audience during her presentation. As you might imagine many of the scouts LOVED this and thrilled to be playing with the snakes for the evening.

    While the "harmless" snakes were making their way around the audience, she took out the Timber Rattlesnake and had him on the floor. Timber Rattlesnakes are very docile to begin with, but clearly this one has been handled in programs like this for a few years and never once coiled, rattled, or really even moved much outside of the area she put it down.

    This was a great meeting, and we were thrilled to have people from the community, and other scouts from the surrounding area come to join us. We also had several scouting aged kids that came with parents as a result of our advertising campaign to the schools and community events calendars etc. Even if we get one additional young man interested in scouting as a result of this event, then it is all worth it.

    Our SPL struggles a bit keeping control of the troop, he's pretty soft spoken and frankly would rather join in their rambunctious activities than get the work done, but we're making progress. Our Flag Ceremonies are coming along, and are a marked improvement from a few months ago.

    Considering our scouts only have one year of real scouting under their belt, they're making good progress and learning. It underscores the importance of starting Scouts out as Cub Scouts and helping instill in them the Scouting values, culture, and behaviors/decorum from the time they're young. Starting out at age 13-16 is a tough adjustment. I'll have to write about our atypical troop experience in another entry sometime.

    We'll definitely need to organize more of these types of events, and broaden our reach. I wish I could find the quote, but Baden Powell said something like "The Scoutmaster doesn't have to be good at the scouting skills, but he'll be a good role model and will be connected to the community and will bring people to the troop to help teach these skills" - that's a very rough paraphrase, or at least the message of reassurance I took away from the quote when I read it.

    As Scoutmaster I don't have to be an expert at these skills, or know everything, or be able to teach everything. I just have to figure out what interests the boys have, and bring the experts to them. I'm recommitted to stepping up my efforts to do just that.

    Yours in Scouting,

    Latter-day Scout

    *FYI I believe in earning Merit Badges the way the Merit Badge books say they should be done, with the boys taking the initiative to work on the requirements etc. We don't do the requirements at troop meetings. We just cover program features that teach skills from the Merit Badge, or introduce them to the topic. It's on the scout's shoulders to study, prepare, complete the Merit Badge.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Rules for Dating a Scoutmaster's Daughter

    Adapted from a post by fellow scouter and blogger Scoutmaster Steve as prompted by this great shirt we've seen on www.Cafepress.com/ScouterStuff:




    Rules for Dating a Scoutmaster's Daughter:
    1. You may only date Boy Scouts that have achieved Eagle Scout rank.
    2. You and your date must wear your scout uniforms at all times during the date.
    3. If someone pulls into the the driveway and honks, it better be UPS and not your date, as he will not be picking you up if he does so.
    4. All activities on a date must count towards badge work, be acceptable under the Scout Law.
    5. The only food on the date will be Girl Scout Cookies or ScoutPopcorn and your date must agree to purchase a minimum of one case.
    6. At least 2 members of your troop/crew or your leader must accompany you on a date as a chaperon. We practice 2-deep leadership, and the buddy system always!
    7. There will be no Friendship squeezes, and the only thing you will do with your hands is give the scout hand sign and handclasp.
    8. The only music you will listen to will be scout campfire songs.
    9. The word "s'more" will not be spoken on the date.
    10. You may only swap "Something With A Pin or a Patch"
    11. On your honor you will only go to a nursing home, church or homeless shelter to perform service on your date.
    12. As a Scoutmaster I can tie 100 kinds of knots, build a roaring fire that can consume anything, and dig a latrine at least 6 feet deep.I can hike 20 miles in a driving rain with an 75 pound backpack.I am very familiar with knives and guns. Please be home even earlier than you promise and don't test my resolve to "Be Prepared" to protect my daughter.

    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Wasabi, & Chili, & Lime - Oh My!

    In case you haven't heard yet, the Boy Scout spring Popcorn fundraiser is kicking off this month, along with a huge online sales campaign.

    The BSA is also introducing a new product line, available exclusively online - and I'll admit, I'm pretty excited to try it!

    Available online starting March 15th you'll be able to order:
    -Chili Lime Almonds
    -Wasabi Soy Almonds
    -Yogurt-Covered Pretzels

    I'll admit I've been a dissenter of the whole Boy Scout popcorn idea, but I buy it and sell it to support Scouting. The Popcorn is pricey, and well - it's popcorn. But these new products may just offer some alternatives to the non-popcorn supporters and encourage online sales which from a fundraising standpoint is fantastic because you don't have to collect money, or deliver product! It ships right to your door!

    So here's another shameless plug for my son who is earning his way to the 2010 Centennial National Jamboree, and your chance to check out the new product line! Just visit Http://www.OrderPopcorn.com after March 15th and input his unique code to shop: TEVP899 Then you can try out these bold new products and show your support for scouting!

    Happy Scouting & remember to support the Boy Scouts in your area when they come around selling popcorn.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

    As the next generation continues to acclimate to the age of the Internet and harness its power, there is a steady stream of new tools, new products, new websites, new blogs that just might be the next big thing. They also just might be another distraction taking us further from those things that really are most important.

    So where's the happy medium? And how do we find harmony between the Outdoor Program of the Boy Scouts of America, and our increasingly computer savvy young men in the Scouting programs?

    There are pages that could be written on that subject, but today I wanted to address social-networking sites specifically and discuss some of their benefits and potential pitfalls.

    The new powerhouse on the block appears to be Twitter, but there are other useful networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to take advantage of as well. Each of them are really quite different, and I'll discuss some of those strengths as well. The fact that the Boy Scouts of America has taken note of these tools and now has links to their profiles on these social sites from their home page and online store lends further credibility to the grassroots online scouting movement.

    Here's some basic information and tips about each of them (in alphabetical order) and how I use them for Scouting:

    Facebook:

    Facebook is really about connecting with friends and family. It allows you to create different security groups to control access to the content you publish, and easily network and connect with peers anywhere from High School, to the office, college alumni associations, and special interest groups.

    I've encountered a few people in other social network sites that I have "friended" on Facebook, but primarily use it for people that I have met in real life.

    LinkedIn:

    LinkedIn is very similar to FaceBook, but is directed to more professional networking where you can post your profile similar to a resume, get professional endorsements, interact with various professional and corporate associations.

    I've found LinkedIn to be a bit more helpful than FaceBook for scouting networking and have even found groups for Wood Badge Alumni, and even my own Wood Badge Patrol, the Good 'Ol Antelope!

    Similar to FaceBook, LinkedIn is more about networking with people you know, and meeting new people with similar interests.

    Twitter:

    Now Twitter. I'll admit I wasn't an early adopter, but I'm certainly a convert! I have staked claims on various parts of the Internet and have blogged at Blogspot, LiveJournal, and several others. I have a Plurk.com account, but admit I rarely use it. Twitter on the other hand is my latest tap into the Internet pipe of information - especially for all things scouting.

    In just a few weeks I've garnered over 500 followers, and more importantly located more than 1,500+ people that in most cases have something to do with scouting. And that's just with this identity. I actually maintain a second - admittedly less beloved account - for random information and politics. With that much chatter - how can one possibly keep up? I'll admit it's not easy, and I certainly don't claim to have it down. But with tools like Twhirl and TweetDeck you can sort and classify this barrage of information and extract out the information you want.

    For the most part I only read messages that are directed to me (using the "@" symbol like: @latterday_scout in Twitter-speak), Direct messages, and messages using the key words BSA or Scout. This allows me to sort through thousands of messages very quickly and dig out just that content I'm looking for, as well as share (or Retweet! in the vernacular) the content I think my followers and friends will find useful.

    When it comes to scouting, Twitter is by far the most useful online tool I've found for networking, making scouting friends, and learning more about scouting. In a very short amount of time I've found new friends, picked up fundraising and program tips, been pointed to useful scouting resources I was previously unaware of, and ultimately had exposed to me a wealth of scouting news that is beneficial to me, and the scouts I lead.

    Twitter also lets me share my experience and insight, and update more people when I create new blog entries and the like. It's also growing into a place where my Troop can collaborate and go for quick up to date information and I've already created an account for my Troop so we have our name reserved when we mature our communications plans to that point.

    There are certainly downsides to Twitter, like those who disparage scouting, or the spammers, marketers, and porn stars that follow everyone they can to gain credibility. But like any beautiful garden it just takes some careful pruning and once you've started building your Twitter network - you'll find it a powerful resource for scouting or your hobby/platform of choice!

    Feel free to comment with any useful Twitter resources, questions, or other social net-scouting subjects. I hope this is useful to you!

    Yours in Scouting Service,

    Latter-day Scout
    Twitter Button from twitbuttons.com

    Some Additional Twitter Resources
    Twitter "follow me" badges:
    Search "Hashtags" # and see what's happening in specific communities or subjects on Twitter. Also does trending of hot topics
    Search Twitter for keywords or subjects:
    Twitter Grader Grades your Twitter identity and helps you find the "twitter elite"
    Nearbytweets lets you find tweeters in your local area and search by topic!

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    A Scout Is Friendly.

    A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
    -Scout Law

    I have plans to write a series of blog entries here, detailing each of the principles of the Scout Oath and Law. However an online conversation tonight, where once again core Boy Scout values were called into question, prompted me to review this one tonight briefly.

    Some would have society believe that the Boy Scouts are a discriminatory, bigoted, intolerant organization. The points of the Scout Law, if applied to daily life, prove otherwise.

    Boy Scouts embrace all people, regardless of religion, faith, sexual orientation, ability, race, or creed. However, this does not mean that all can be Boy Scouts. Membership in the Boy Scouts must have some basic requirements for membership. Among these requirements are a faith in God, and a willingness to lead a morally clean life.

    This last point is the cause of much contention, and many say it is exclusively about keeping those with same-gender attraction out of the Boy Scouts. When in reality, it is so much more. It includes being clean in thought and deed. Clean language, proscribing profanity, pornography, premarital sex to outline just a few points.

    But this does not mean that Boy Scouts discriminate against those choosing not to adhere to those basic membership requirements. To the contrary. We embrace all people who are friends to Scouts. We serve them in the community, we partner with them in service and myriad activities. It just means they cannot be Boy Scouts.

    I'll be writing more on this subject in the future, because there is much more to be said. But for now, the Scout Law says enough to those that will look at the scouts with understanding, rather than with prejudice of their own, "A Scout is a friend to all".